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Generation Legal (Talking to Your Kids About Cannabis)

CANNABIS CULTURE – In a town of less than 15,000 people, I now have access to 11 liquor stores, 3 cannabis stores, and tobacco is sold at every corner store.  Living in Alberta, when my children turn 18 they will have unlimited access to all of these. 

Would it make sense to only educate them about some, and not all, of the age-restricted substances they can legally purchase and consume?  This is a question now facing many parents with the fairly recent legalization of cannabis, but it is one that still comes with hesitation.

Secrecy was the running theme from the moment I discovered cannabis until the day it became legalized.  Despite knowing the benefits, both mental and medical, that cannabis could help me with, the taboo of being a marijuana smoker or ingesting THC/CBD in any way prevented talking about it with anyone who was not of like mind.  After the birth of my children, finding mothers who also smoked was a nearly impossible task.  It was socially acceptable and encouraged for moms to go out with “the girls” and down a few bottles of wine, but no one wanted to just chill and smoke one.  It was a very isolating experience.  And of course, you wouldn’t want your children to know what you did in case they told someone, so there was more secrecy and lies.  Nothing like the paranoia of losing your kids because of some self-righteous neighbour or teacher to up that post-smoke anxiety.  

As the world changes, so must our views on many things.  Toddlers on iPads surfing YouTube and preteens with cell phone plans are becoming the norm, as will be older teens standing on the corner with their vapes and joints.  Does this mean the days of hiding cannabis use from parents, teachers, and employers is over?  Far from it.  The stigma is still there, and probably will be for some time. 

Just imagine being alive at the end of prohibition, how wild it must have been to simply walk into a speakeasy and order a drink, how scandalous to offer wine with dinner.  However, the legalization curbed the necessity for illegal and potentially dangerous options, such as moonshine.  Likewise, instead of our children growing up and getting their 1st high from a potentially sketchy drug dealer, one who may have no moral compass when it comes to fentanyl-lacing or synthetic cannabis products, there are now legal, safer options.  It is up to us as parents to educate our children. 

I remember being about 14 and sitting huddled in the back of the camper parked on my stepfather’s property with 2 girlfriends.  We had managed to sneak wine to this semi-outdoor sleepover, and after a few drinks, we decided to head over to the farmer’s property across the way.  We had seen that all-too-familiar leaf shape.  Hopping the fence, we grabbed as much hemp as we could carry and ran back to the trailer.  We had no plans, no experience, and certainly no means of smoking even if there had been buds on those plants.  Eventually, we drunkenly sneaked them back to the farmer’s land, laying them in the field.  The parents never found out, and the farmer never noticed or simply never said anything.  I would bet on the latter.  This was my 1st experience with cannabis plants. 

The 1st time I actually got high was at 15 with my then boyfriend’s sister, again in a camper.  Along with 4 other girls, we hotboxed the bathroom and then headed out into the night.  I stood on a train bridge and felt the rush as a train bore down on us, a straight track that seemed to suspend the danger forever.  As the air from the speeding train shoved past me, I remember looking into the sky and feeling like I was the earth, completely connected in energy and love.  Intermingled with those feelings, however, was that inner voice whispering all of the awful consequences that would befall us if we were caught. 

I have always maintained that I want my boys to be able to be open with me about their substance use when they are older.  Just like having the safe sex talk is important at the appropriate age, so is the responsible cannabis use talk.  Obviously if my boys choose to experiment, I hope they would keep it natural and try it 1st in the safety of their own home.  I want them to know the risks, benefits, and effects that different strains can have on mood and energy.  Safety, openness, freedom – what more could we want in a relationship with our littles?  

Just as the sex talk hopefully prevents unwanted STIs and pregnancies, the marijuana talk may significantly lower the dangers they face.  NarCan kits are now available in case fentanyl-laced products do turn up, and maybe these will soon become the new condom, putting one in our older child’s bedside drawer just in case they don’t feel comfortable talking about their lifestyle choices.  As we tell our children about the dangers of drinking and driving, we must also be prepared to discuss the consequences of driving under any legal (or illegal) influences.  

In reality, we are the generation that will need to do the majority of the changing.  It is the only way we can safely transition our children into this world that is so different from the one we grew up in.  We can choose to break down the stigma, or stay silent and contribute to it.  Leaving children in the dark or promoting abstinence, while it may make things easier at first, can lead to harmful behaviours and a disconnect.  When my children are old enough, we will sit down to have an open and honest discussion about the “herbal medicine” that their parents use.  they will be allowed to ask any questions they need, and they will hopefully feel safe coming to us if they ever decide to try cannabis products.  I cannot possibly expect them to do everything at home or always be straightforward with us, as children learn by pushing limits, but being the best parents possible means we give them all the tools to make the best choices possible, and hope they make them.  

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